Vegans of Ottawa – Krista Collins

In this series, we chat with vegans from around the region to find out what it’s like to be plant-based in Ottawa, discovering tips and tricks for living a like a local – vegan style.

Krista Collins is originally from Tillsonburg, Ontario, but now lives between Lincoln Fields and Westboro. A vegan for the past 3 years, she is passionate about animal welfare and has worked extensively with her favourite charity, Mercy For Animals. We talked to her about awareness and crunching the numbers.

Ottawa Life: What inspired you to become a vegan?

Krista Collins:  I had always been very conscious of animal suffering. I was studying cognitive science at the time, and started learning more about the nature of suffering. I was exposed to an increasing number of documentaries and statistics, and I could no longer ignore the moral implications and environmental impact of my diet.

Was it difficult for you to make the transition to veganism? Why or why not?

Not really. I was on a student’s budget, so cutting high-priced items like meat and dairy was a benefit. If I ever had cravings, there were tons of vegan substitutions available at the grocery store like butter, sausages, and ice cream. The fun part was learning about all the plant foods that were available.

What do you find to be the most challenging part about being a vegan? How do you try to overcome that challenge?

I, like a lot of vegans, had a hard time limiting cow milk at first. From what I understand, the secretions contain casein, which produces an opioid effect when ingested. I overcame this challenge by trying to make my disgust stronger than my desire. I watched a lot of videos of mother cows crying after their babies were taken. A lot of people don’t know that they’re forced to give birth every year, and the male babies are killed for veal. I also looked into the health effects of consuming dairy. After a few weeks, I didn’t crave it anymore. I love cashew ice cream!

What is the greatest benefit that you have gained from being a vegan and why?

The greatest benefit I’ve gained from being vegan is peace of mind. I know I am living in accordance with my values. It’s great for the environment, peace, and for my own health.

What are your favourite vegan spots/restaurants in Ottawa and why? What is your favourite thing on the menu?

I find it pretty easy to veganize at least one meal from any restaurant menu. I’ve recently been impressed by Pizza Pizza’s new dairy-free cheeze, it’s delicious. The ‘orange vegan’ at Asian Stars is awesome, and I like their separate menu of vegan dishes. For coffee or dessert, I love the selection at Little Jo Berry’s.

Where do you get your groceries in Ottawa? What does your grocery list typically include?

I save money by buying bulk and cooking most of my food at home. I use the local business Good Food 2 U. They deliver mostly local produce to their customers in the same trip, which cuts down on transportation emissions, and saves my back. For any other grocery items, I like Rainbow Foods and the natural food aisles at The Real Canadian Superstore. My grocery list contains veggies, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. My favourites include apples, spinach, pasta, beans, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, there are so many options!

Do you find that there is an active vegan community in Ottawa? Why do you think that finding a community is so important?

I find there is a very active local online community. There always seems to be an event or meet-up happening, and everyone is free to create their own smaller groups and events. I am the creator of Whole Food Plant Based Ottawa, a small Facebook group of 50 people. There are almost 3600 people in the main Ottawa Vegans and Vegetarians Facebook group.

What advice would you give to people interested in or thinking about going vegan?

Read and watch all the things! Maybe start with Netflix and watch Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy. Find a source of information you can trust, and reach out to us if you need any help. There are many vegan support groups that would love the chance to prove to you that you’re not alone, and you can do this!

If you’re not ready to be fully vegan, there are many steps you can take to head in that direction. Reduce as much as possible, and you’ll be a hero to the animals. They need us. Much love!

Krista’s Vegan Essentials:

Snacks – I love the classic and portable fruit and nuts. An apple with peanut butter is delicious.

Sources of Plant-based Protein – I love legumes! Beans, lentils and peanut butter are my favourites.

Blogs and/or Social Media – The Minimalist Baker has a lot of simple recipes. Youtube is filled with awesome vegan content and recipes. Two favourites right now are Mic. The Vegan and applesandamandas.

Cookbooks and/or Recipes – The Forks Over Knives Cookbook combines delicious with healthy.